HOW TO GET A VISA EXTENSION IN CHIANG MAI THAILAND
HOW TO GET A VISA EXTENSION IN CHIANG MAI THAILAND
What To Expect & How To Plan
The Visa situation for travel to Thailand is, shall we say, “interesting.” I’m writing from the perspective of an American, traveling on an U.S.Pasport. (Visa issues, of course, vary from one country to another. But much of the information reported her will apply to those from countries other than the U.S. ) My entry into Thailand at Chiang Mai was “visa exempt” (see below) which allowed me to stay “In The Kingdom” for 30 days. My plans however involved staying in Thailand for 60 days. This required that I find a way to get a visa to cover my entire 60 day stay. While there were several ways to approach this problem I chose to get a 30 day visa extension from Thailand Immigration in Chiang Mai. I found the process to be a bit confusing so I thought that I would share my experience in the hopes it might be of some help to other travelers in similar circumstances.
A Bit Of Visa Background Info –
For Americans, Thailand offers a surpringly large number of different visa types depending on how you arrive, the purpose of your trip and your length of stay in country. As a result, for some the Visa situation is very easy. For others – not so much.
For what I suppose is the largest number of travelers to Thailand the visa situation is easy. If you are traveling for pleasure, as a tourist, and you arrive in Thailand by air you will automatically be granted entry into Thailand with a status referred to as “visa exempt.” Technically you don’t even need a visa. Just fill out your arrival / departure card (given to you enroute) prior to landing and present it, along with your passport at immigration in your arrival airport. Your departure card will be stapled to your passport and your passport will be stamped with a notation of your date of arrival and indicating you can stay for up to 30 days with that 30 day date also being noted in your passport. That’s it. You’re done. Entry good for 30 days. No cost. No hassle. So for tourists arriving by air and wishing to stay in Thailand 30 days or less – well, it’s a cake walk.
For other visitors to Thailand the situation gets a bit more complicated. Everyone’s situation is different and they will have to explore what type of visa they need – immigrant, non-immigrant, retirement, work related, volunteer, student, etc. The list goes on and on. Check the Thailand Immigration website and sort through your own details to determine what type of visa you require.
Getting A 30 Visa Extension in Chiang Mai –
To get a 30 extension on your tourist or visa exempt visa you will need the following:
- 1900 Thai Baht visa extension fee
- Photo copy of identification page of you passport
- Photo copy of the Thailand entry permit stamped in your passport
- Personal head and shoulders photo size 4 x 6 cm
- Completed Thailand Immigration Form TM.7
- (You will also need some time and a bit of patience…..)
If you can organize these items beforehand things will move a bit more quickly and smoothly for you.
- You can download a copy of Form TM.7 HERE. It’s fairly straightforward. If you are not sure how to complete it you will find examples available at the immigration office. Also, you can pick up blank TM.7 forms at the immigration office as well.
- There is a photo copy and photo service shop located right next to the immigration office. They will make your photo copies for 4 Baht per page. They will take and print the correct sized photos for you for the cost of 200 Baht ( This actually gets you 6 prints – no other option – although you only need one)
The Thailand Immigration Office is now located in Promenada Mall (Previously it was located near the airport but it has moved.) The Thail Immigration Office offers information HERE . The mall is located on the eastern side of Chiang Mai.
Choose your own best transportation. For me that was Uber from where I stayed in the Maya Mall, Nimman area which cost between 135 and 185 Baht depending on time of day.
Promenada Mall is a nice new large multi-level shopping complex with theaters, retail stores, an excellent grocery store, and many coffee shops and food venders.
The immigration offices are located on the ground floor of Building A. The actual offices are inside but some of the initial processing is done at stands and tables set up outside the building proper – but they are under an overhang so that there is shade.
Once you arrive at Promenada Mall, make your way down to the ground floor level and outside under the over hang.
If you do not yet have Form TM.7 you can find one in a box on the table near the sign that says “Tourist”. Be sure you select the proper form. There are other forms in the same area for retirement applications, etc. The TM.7 form is titled, “APPLICATION FOR EXTENSION OF TEMPORARY STAY IN THE KINGDOM.”
You can find examples of how to correctly complete the forms at tables along the wall area. That’s what the folks are doing in the photo below.
If you do not have your photo copies and / or photograph you can get them made at the shop in the same area.
Once you have all your materials together – including passport and visa extension fee – it’s time to get in line. Go to the line by the sign which says “TOURIST.”
You will not be alone. Once you reach the front of this line a staff member will take your application fee and materials, checking to be sure that you have everything they require. If you do, the staff member will then give you a numbered ticket. KEEP THIS TICKET! You will need it to know when your materials are processed and to get your passport and visa back.
Okay – you have now completed step one of the application process. At this point you just have to wait until they call your number. This next part of the process takes place inside so head to the office located to the right of the desk where you turned in your materials and got your number.
Inside you will find lots of chairs and lots of people. There is also an overflow seating area outside the office in the mall area. Not everyone is applying for the same type of visa however. Look around the room and you will see electronic lighted boards at several locations hanging from the ceiling – they are located at a specific application processing stations and indicate the number of the application currently being served. Find the board and location that has numbers in a sequence resembling yours. Different types of applications are handled at different numbered stations with the waiting number corresponding to the station. For example, applications for one type of visa were handled at station #1 and those waiting numbers are listed in the 1,000s.. When I was there applications for visa extensions were at Station 4 with waiting numbers being in the 4,000s. Hard to describe clearly here in words – but it becomes obvious when you see it in action
During The Holidays They Had A Christmas Tree In The Waiting Area
Now all you have to do is wait for your number to work it’s way through the system. It takes awhile. I had number 4098. When I arrived at this stage they were serving number 4051. It took 3 1/2 hours for my number to come up. Once I had seen how slowly the process moved I used my time to explore the mall and look around. I had a snack. I also had a book with me. It’s a chance to meet some other interesting people, all of whom are dealing with immigration and visa issues.
Eventually they will call your number. At that point proceed to your station where they will take your number and check to be sure you look like the person in the photo you had given them. (By the way, you have to do thiswhole process in person. You cannot send a representative or use a visa service.) Perhaps they may ask you a few questions. Then they will take a digital photo of you for their system. After that you return to your seat and wait for them to call your name. This wait isn’t long however. After about 5 minutes or so your name will be called and you collect your passport with the visa extension inside and a reciept for the visa.
The process is a bit complicated but there are lots of people around who are helpful – other visitors to Thailand – many of whom have done this before – as well as immigration staff members. The process takes a rather long time. Some have told me it varies with the time of year, being busiest during the “high season” from November through February. I was there in December.
The immigration offices hours are posted as being open from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday excepting for various holidays. Be aware they are closed fron noon until 1:00 PM. Some suggest it is better and quicker to arrive early in the morning and get in line before they open. Others suggest it is better to arrive when they reopen at 1:00PM. I arrived shortly before 1:00 PM and filled out my TM.7. Then I had to wait until 1:00 PM for the shop to open to get my properly sized photos and photo copies. Even so, I had completed the “first line” and gotten my number by 1:15 PM. That’s when the waiting began – not helped in the least by an immigration computer system problem which last for 30 to 40 minutes. I completed the entire process and “left the building” at 4:30 PM. (Although I cannot confirm this as standard poicy, my understanding is that if you have a number your application will be processed that day – even if it requires being there beyond their official 4:30 closing time.)
As a final note let me add that my visa extension issue was still relatively simple compared to some of the visa dilemnas that others face. With that in mind let me say that there is an excellent and very helpful group on Facebook devoted to Thailand Visa issues and questions. Group members were very helpful to me. You can connect with them at:
If you need a visa extension – that’s how it’s done………..
ENJOY THE ADVENTURE!
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